By: Ogar Peters
Imbued with fecudity of ideas and clear understanding of governance,Governor Ben Ayade knew that to bring socio- economic development to the door steps of long suffering citizens,road infrastructure is key.
It opens up hitherto hard to reach areas and aids trans-border commerce and trade.Thus, goods and services are transacted with ease.This in turn ups the living standard of the citizens with appreciable cash in the pocket and food on the table.
The above obviously weighed heavily on Ayade’s mind when he conceived the idea of linking the five local government areas that make up Northern Cross River with a 145 kilometre super highway.
As if omelette can be made with out breaking an egg, when Governor Ayade kick-started construction of the road, cynics who never believed such gigantic road project was possible derivisely christened the entire stretch of the road, “Ayade Dust”, an allusion to the tremendous dust generated by the earth work segment of the construction during dry season.
However, today, the governor is joyfully living out his dream and the people of Northern Cross River are happy.The road project has berthed on the realm of reality.And this is verifiable.
Divided into two phases, the earthwork has been completed. A section of the road from Obanliku to Obudu spanning over 25 kilometres has been completely asphalted.
The completed portion of the road comes with furnitures including street light with world standard landscaping,culverts and beautiful flowers planted inside the unique divider.
With work steadily progressing on the project, are there still doubting Thomases who will only believe until they dip their hands on the wound? The 145 kilometre Mfon-Okuku- Obudu highway is an undeniable reality rudely staring everyone, including Ayade critics, on the face.
What remains is for those who saw no future with the 145 kilometre road project to publicly eat their words by admitting they thought wrongly of Ayade.
This is more so because before Ayade happened on Cross River, the all important road was in a deplorable stage for decades,with most portion of it mere bush paths.
Also, the alternative means of transport, the Bebi Airstrip built by previous administrations has the worst record in terms of plane crashes. In about five years, three plane crashed trying to use the airport. This is the highest crashes recorded by any airport in the history of aviation in Nigeria.
Many have blamed the location of the Airstrip which is surrounded by mountains as the reason. It is even rumoured that the mountains have some magnetic substances which usually cause flights some difficulties to land thereby leading to the crashes which always claim the lives of all those on board.
The Ministry of Aviation at a point issued warning to those wanting to fly to the airport. This of course has left the air strip almost comatose.
Because of the dilapidated roads and unfortunate record of crashes, visits to the ranch by tourists have dried up.
This in turn has affected the revenue generation as well hindered government from actualizing the vision and the mission for the investment.
Despite the lean financial position of the state, the governor embarked on what was described as an impossible project, the dualisation of the 148km highway that cuts across the five local governments of the northern part of the state.
The road which has recorded impressive progress was doubted by many.
Determined to prove his doubters wrong, the governor went to work and today, the road project has attained appreciable milestone
Obudu town is today wearing a new look. A new visitor to the town may struggle to know the difference between the city and the federal capital territory, Abuja.
The Project Manager, Mr. John Najar projected that by October or November, the project would have been fully completed up to Bekwarra which is about 80km.
He said that “The project is a 145km dual carriage highway with each lane at 7.3km wide. We have done earthworks for the entire 145km. We have commenced the next stage which is pouring of stone base and we have covered up to 40km in the first phase. Between now and November, hopefully, we will cover up to Bekwarra. We have done drainage and concrete work in some parts while others are ongoing.
“The project is divided into two phases. We have another team that will be starting the second phase next week from Mbok. They have been mobilized and will go to site next week”.
Najar added that “For now, we have done up to five kilometres asphalting in Ogoja. We have also done 15 kilometres stone base there. In Okpoma, all excavation for drainage have been completed and waiting for casting. There’s also a place called Okuku in Yala too, we have also completed all excavation for drainages and waiting for casting”.
Also speaking, Joseph Adie, 34, who was seated in a roadside bush bar watching engineers working on the site with so much attention and excitement while commending the Governor described the new look of Obudu as London in Nigeria while saying that the progress of work in the project is a big surprise to many of them.
“To be honest with you, I was one of the doubting Thomases. I never believed this project will even reach the stage it is now. We were calling this place before, Ayade dust or power because of the dust. We don’t know the magic Ayade is doing because I know Cross River is no longer rich like it used to be because of the loss of the littoral status. And he has managed to do this with other projects like the Canadian School, Reference Hospital and the Airport which he just started in Obudu.
“I want to call on Cross Riverians to support Ayade’s great vision for this state. This road project that you see here today will revamp the ranch, create jobs and bring development to our people. I want to say thank you to the Governor”.
A motorist, Moses Awhen who spoke flawlessly in pidgin English said the progress of work has been breathtaking.
According to him, “there is no difference between night and day in Obudu again. First of all, I want to apologize to the Governor on behalf of all of us who said one bad thing or the other against him at the commencement of this project. Our Governor is a Professor and we are local drivers that don’t even understand development.
“Whoever dreamt that Obudu will be like this? We all abused the Governor and said the project will never come to being. What you see here today is a miracle because if you had come here a few months back, you would have seen how we used our own mouth to condemn our brother because of this wonderful progress.
“Today, we have Street and traffic lights in Obudu. I used to see those things only in America movies. I’m confident that he will do same in all the local government headquarters. My appeal to our digital Governor is to direct his workers to be a bit faster with the work so that before the end of the year, the work will reach Utugwang and if possible up to Bekwarra. He has to complete this project because if he doesn’t, I don’t see the next Governor having the courage to do this”.